Windsor - February 17, 2014 - Tuesday, February 18th marks the sixth anniversary of the passing of former Windsor Spitfires captain Mickey Renaud. The Spitfires game Tuesday night against the London Knights is dedicated to the memory of one of the most popular players in the history of franchise. His untimely passing sent shockwaves through Windsor’s tight knit hockey community, and the Spitfires honour Mickey every season with a game played on February 18th.
During the inaugural Run For Mickey held last summer, I had the opportunity to talk with Mickey’s coaches, GM, teammates, and parents. Here are their thoughts.
Spitfires President & Head Coach Bob Boughner
TC: Bob, can you give me your thoughts on what Mickey meant to the community, and to the team?
BB: Mickey touched a lot of our lives, in the way he was so unselfish, the way he was always a great teammate, a guy who wanted to be a leader in every situation, a guy who spent a lot of time in our community. That’s why we thought a community event like this, where kids and adults of all ages could come and participate in some physical activity, raise money to give back to the community -would be great . That’s what Mickey was all about. It’s nice to have his family here, it’s nice to see a lot of fans here, and a lot people from the running community have come out, who never knew Mickey, but they’re here to support his legacy.
TC: Mickey’s parents, Mark and Jane, are here and they are still involved with the Spitfires. You’ve always made them feel like they are still a part of the team with events like “Mickey Night”, can you talk a little about that?
BB:Every February 18th we have a night dedicated to Mickey, and I have promised them that as long as I’m here we’ll always do that, to remember him and play in his honour. We have special uniforms that are dedicated to that night.
TC: And today, we have “Mickey’s Run”.
BB: Yes. We thought that doing something on behalf of the foundation, to raise money for the local community, and to have his parents and family involved and participate would be great.
TC: Any idea how much money today’s event might raise for the foundation?
BB: Our goal is $20,000.00 and if we don’t hit it we’ll be very close, and that’s great for our first year.
Spitfires General Manager Warren Rychel
TC: Warren, can you talk about Mickey and what he meant to the Spitfires, and the event today?
WR: Certainly, we’ve kept his memory with us, and what he means to not only the team and the fans, but to the new kids coming in. We’ve got a great turnout, and he means everything to us, he’s on our uniform, he’s on the ice, and this is another way of honouring him, and the funds that go into the Spitfires Foundation that will go to helping many things here in the city.
TC: Mark and Jane are here today, and they’re still involved with the organization - that must mean a lot to you and the Spits.
WR: Yes, we’re friends with Mark and Jane, and we see each other away from the rink, we see them at different events, whether it’s a night out or a golf day. It’s always good to see them, and they’ll always be a part of the Spitfires.
Associate Coach Bob Jones
TC: Bob, you knew and coached Mickey, can you tell me what this day means?
BJ: He was a fantastic person, everybody knew him as a hockey player, but as a coach we get to know the kids as people as well, and he was a real special person, he touched a lot of people’s hearts, on this team and in this community, and this is a great tribute to Mickey.
DJ Smith, Head Coach Oshawa Generals
TC: DJ, you were an assistant coach here in Windsor for many years, including the time that Mickey played here, can you talk about what he meant to the community and the Spitfires?
DJ: Well, the big thing is, being from Windsor, you could identify Mickey with ourselves - myself, Bob, Warren, being a part of the new wave of young hockey players. I had the honour to coach him his entire career. I skated with his dad, and I know Mark and Jane very well. Mickey was a key part of building The Windsor Spitfires, and his tragic loss brought our team together, and you could say that he was a major part of us winning. Everything he stood for, whether it was taking care of his teammates, on and off the ice, is something that is carried on, and it’s great to have a chance to remember him .
Mark and Jane Renaud
TC: Can you talk about Mickey and what this day means to you both?
MR:It’s a wonderful day, a remembrance for us. What’s nice about it, and what I always say to people, is that a big part of Mickey’s legacy is that he continues to inspire others to do nice things. Things like this fundraising event are very important to us, and it’s a wonderful way to have Mickey remembered. We’re very appreciative of that.
JR: He was amazing. I always say he wasn’t just good, he was great. And it started when he was a little kid. He was just outstanding in every way, a heart as big as could be. He would strive to be the best at everything, but he was also very humble. Everyone saw the end result as a Spitfire, but he was born like that. He was just amazing.
TC: We have a great turnout today, it says a lot about Mickey.
MR: It’s a great day, and we’re thrilled that Mickey is remembered this way, and it’s so nice that people have come out to support an event like this.
TC: Eric, you played two seasons with Mickey, can you tell me about him?
EW: Everybody knows this by now, but he was a great character guy. He had the biggest heart of anybody I’ve ever met in my life. He started the ball rolling for the guys to gel into the team that we ended up having in Windsor when we won the two Memorial Cups. And even though he wasn’t there physically he was there for every game, every adversity. We had Mickey things all around the room to remind us, and he probably played the biggest part without even being there physically.
TC: Today there are reminders around the rink, and the Spitfires are carrying on his legacy.
EW: Yeah, and I think that’s great of the organization. He meant a lot to them and to everybody in this community and I learned a lot from him by playing with him for two years. I knew him a couple of years prior to that too. I’d work out with him and DJ Smith and I learned how to work hard and I attribute a lot of my success to him. How to be a good guy in the dressing room, how to work in the gym and off the ice, how to take care of your body and how to prepare for a hockey game.
TC: Henny, can I get some thoughts from you about Mickey?
AH: He’s someone we’ll never forget, and he was a big part of our team. When we came to the team we were really young , he was our leader, a guy who we all looked up to. For us younger guys, he was someone we could talk to, he would tell us how to handle certain situations, and what we should expect. He drove a lot of the guys around, and he made it a lot more comfortable for the new guys coming into the league. He was a guy that I looked up to, and I tried to emulate what he brought to the team, I tried to take some of what he did, and put it into my career, my hockey, and work ethic.
Any time you get days like this, when you get the guys together, or like last summer when we had the reunion, he comes up a lot. We still tell stories, it’s fun talking about him. Today you see how all the people from the community have come out, and it keeps his memory alive. We’ll never forget what he meant to us and to the team, and the community here, and what type of person he was.
TC: Harry, you were the first Spitfires captain after Mickey. Can you tell me about him?
HY: Yes, I was the first captain after Mickey, and it’s a real point of pride for me. He taught me a lot about leadership, and he was just the perfect leader all around. He was extremely competitive, hard working, he was one of those guys who led by example. He was also a vocal guy in the room, the kind of guy that you always wanted to be around. Everything you want in a leader, he had it. I tried to emulate that.
TC: When the Spits won the OHL championship in 2009, Mickey’s jersey was brought out onto the ice and draped over the trophy.
HY: He was a huge part of the team, he was out there with us the whole time. The mentality was that no matter what we were doing, he was always with us.
TC: And the reminders are still around the rink.
HY: We tried to keep it all over the place, he’s someone we’ll never forget, regardless of whether the reminders are there or not. He’s always going to be a part of us. We’re doing something like this today, and you see how many people have turned out. It’s a beautiful day, and he would have loved something like this.
TC: You came to the Spitfires at the age of fifteen. How did Mickey’s leadership help you as a young player coming into the league?
RE: Mickey was eighteen when Taylor (Hall) and I both came in as fifteen year olds, and he was so mature for his age, so beyond his years .He was a calming influence, an even keel guy who would let us know if we got out of line, and having a guy like that leading the way was big for us, and very influential in our early years.
TC: You wore the “C” after Harry, what did that mean to you?
RE: I grew up watching Mickey, and then to follow after Harry, it was huge. I saw just how those two guys led in totally different ways, and I got something from each of them. Harry was more on ice, and if something needed to be said, he said it. Mickey was more talkative and out-going, and I picked up important aspects of leadership from both of them. I’m more out-spoken that other guys, and that’s how I would lead, and I would hope it would translate to on the ice. It was an adjustment at first, to take the pressure of being a captain, and lead, but it was a great experience.
TC: The Spits have carried Mickey’s legacy on by having reminders around the rink. Can you talk about that?
RE: Yes, all of that is very important. We’ve all got chains around our necks with #18 on them. I wear mine all the time. I still visit his gravesite. Everyone has a part of Mickey left in them from the first team, and that helps carry his legacy over to future Spitfire teams. The organization wants to carry that on to the new players who didn’t know him.